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Why You Should Visit Ubud

Ubud and the surrounding country of Gianyar have long been the cultural heartland of Bali and no more so than today.
With the exception of early twentieth century tourism in Denpasar City tourist accommodation has almost always been located near the coast – almost totally ignored by the Balinese because the land was of no use for farming.
Although community ceremonies and Hindu rituals are performed in every part of Bali in Gianyar they are the most frequent and the community character the most intensely traditional.
Broadly speaking different cultural practices belong to a north -south divide, the north the home of Bali’s earliest settlers and the southeast coast where Majapahit princes settled seven hundred years ago after their East Java kingdom switched to Islam.
In the centre of Ubud is the palace of the royal house of Sukawati, rich in carvings, sculptures and symbolism and reflecting traditional folk lore and religious beliefs.
Here, almost nightly some of Bali’s finest dance troupes perform a dazzling selection of traditional dances for visitors.
At nearby Peliatan royal palace and at dozen or more temples around Ubud there are many other dances staged to interest visitors.
The dances and gamelan orchestras link with deep roots to the community and their beliefs.
The royal palace of Ubud, occupies its rightful place across the road from the central market – now rambling streets of colourful crafts and souvenir sellers.
Many Hindu ceremonies, especially cremations, take place in Ubud and can be so spectacular that international television channels vie to film them.
Ubud is an ancient network of villages a few kilometres west from the Pejeng area where Bali’s first maharaja named Udayana lived and laid the foundations of Bali civilization later improved by the Majapahits.
Along the river banks nearby are the holy purification places and hermits caves of early Hindus a thousand years ago, most easily seen in the grounds of the Elephant Cave.
At the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Pengosekan the owner delights to lecture guests about ancient monuments of the Ubud area and personally escorts visitors on a dawn Golden Hour Tour so that they can see them for themselves.
Ubud’s oldest site is the riverside temple at Campuhan where nearly two thousand years ago the Indian sage Maharisi Markendeya founded the temple and declared Ubud a place of healing and medicine – obat being the local word for medicine – obat – Ubud.
In the early twentieth century Westerners began to visit Bali in the wake of Dutch colonial conquest kicking off a century of tourism.
Their most important contribution was in working with Balinese artists to expand their work from  traditional religious and folk art to scenes from daily life which visitors loved to buy. Selections of these paintings can be seen in any of Ubud’s three private art museums.
Majority of tourists make their way from the palace and market to the Monkey Forest where hundreds of monkeys stand guard over the temples and amuse guests and where Julie Roberts was filmed incongruously biking in the movie Eat, Pray, Love,
It is easy to enter the emerald green rice fields from virtually anywhere in Ubud and tourists love to trek by themselves or join nature walks.
Ubud is a yoga and healing centre of world class and reputation.
It is also a base for trekking and biking to see the surrounding villages or to enjoy the excitement of the downhill ride back to Ubud from Batur Volcano.
Ubud hosts the Baki Writer and Readers Festival, the Bali Spirit Festival and teems with exhibitions and special events related to art, music and spiritualism.
Ubud is a town of art and its hotels and restaurants are either Bali traditional or quaintly rustic.
You will not find so dense a concentration of art, architecture and culture anywhere else in Bali.

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